The main series of diaries were written jointly by Andrew and Agnes Donaldson. They start on the day of their wedding in June 1872, and end with Andrew's death in 1919, Agnes having died in 1918. The diaries provide a fascinating insight into middle class life in Victorian and Edwardian London, being mainly concerned with domestic matters, with occasional references to external events such as the Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, and World War I.
The plays and poems appear mainly to have been written by Donaldson for his children. Many of the plays were performed by the family during Christmas and new year festivities.
The collection also contains a small amount of material relating to the Donaldson's third child, Leonard. He pursued a career in the Royal Navy and was ultimately made an admiral.
Andrew Brown Donaldson was born in 1838, the second son of William Leverton Donaldson. He studied art at both the Royal Academy School and in Rome. Although working mainly in London, he undertook frequent painting trips to Europe. His works were exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Society of Painters, and also in numerous provincial exhibitions.
In June 1872 Donaldson married Agnes Emily Twining, the youngest daughter of the tea merchant, Richard Twining.